The Dunedin Art Center may not be a major arts facility here physically or financially, but it serves the community well in the usually full classes it offers and the quality of its exhibitions.
Right now it offers visitors a trifecta: three good shows with a lot of variety.
"Charles Parkhill: Sculptures," "craft-ed!" and works by painter Kim Michelle Coakley are small by museum standards. Their ambition vs. the available square footage sometimes makes them seem more stuffed than arranged in the galleries. But the experience is satisfying repast rather than visual surfeit.
Parkhill's collection has the most impact. His wood sculptures at their best combine elegant, cerebral form with earthy, often battered wood. He has said he prefers viewers to find their own interpretations for his work, but his titles are usually explicit and specific. For Portal, wood strips are elaborately fitted together, cut into circular forms, wrapped in thin veneer. It implies motion, as does Enigma, in which curved bands of wood are pieced together like a Shaker box, forming two circles that collapse into each other.
Reproduced images of work give no sense of scale, and when I saw a photo of Cuff in advance of a visit, I was surprised that Parkhill had taken up basket-weaving. Cuff is woven all right, but from stiff sticks of cypress. And it's big, another example of the artist's serious craftsmanship paired with a solid idea. His work often has wit, even playfulness, as seen in Squirt, in which the wood is carved to resemble a spurt of liquid (also a cotton swab, to my eye) and a trio of sculptures titled First Note, Second Note and Third Note, positioned as if they had jumped off a musical score, their long skinny necks craning up to small orbs, anchored by solid bases, incised with carvings suggesting sound waves.
Curator Mindy Solomon selected works by artists in residence at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for "craft-ed!" (get it? craft + education). It is not an unqualified success; the ceramics are proficient and show interesting glazing techniques but are not inspiring to a casual viewer with no deep knowledge of ceramics. I liked Magda Gluszek's Eavesdropper, a sexy terra-cotta girl, ear to the ground, equipped with big, lacy listening cones. Her toes, with nails painted red, are sculptural gems.
Other mediums showed more originality. You won't at first recognize Elizabeth Alexander as a woodworker. Her carved pieces could be clay. They're elaborately decoupaged with paper, painted, then (the giveaway that she's working in wood) stuck with tacks and nails. They're technically polished works with interesting, cryptic narratives.
Damon McIntyre also tells stories in wood. A triptych titled Any Last Thoughts is composed of a stylized guillotine, gallows and electric chair (with a wall-mounted switch). Their restraint and simplicity banish any hint of editorializing; they're more clever than profound but, strangely, delightful to look at.
The group show also includes some very clever jewelry. If you seek opening conversational gambits at cocktail parties, I suggest you wear one of David Kissel's sterling silver rings. In one, a rocket hovers over a set of pistons; in another, a sailboat bounces on a conceptual sea of silver loops, and a third ring, titled Hamburger and Fries, is topped with miniature gold and silver replications of our ubiquitous fast-food fix. Janine DeCresenzo's tarnished earrings and pendants have a medieval appearance, some pieces surrounded with bits of rabbit fur. (Let's hope that it's used in such small amounts, no bunny had to give its life for jewelry.)
Fiber artist Kim Eichler-Messmer contributed two quilted wall hangings, Caged and Unearthed, that deal with life, death and nature. Rabbits convey the message, first as animals behind bars, suggested by stitching across the animal. Its backbone and ribs are outlined in more stitching applied on fabric torn to reveal an underlayer, sort of like skinning the bunny. (In this work the bunny definitely dies, figuratively, for art worth the sacrifice.)
The third show at Dunedin Fine Art Center is a lighthearted group of paintings and mixed media by Kim Michelle Coakley, full of color, and it holds its own in a room that is more pass-through than formal gallery. Sorry to say I found the poems she wrote to accompany the art not nearly as good. She paints on paper and wood, sometimes cutting the base in a whimsical shape, collaging painted and printed paper on it, applying more paint. I love the feeling, surrounded by her work, of being in an eccentric garden, responding in a purely visceral way.
Lennie Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8293.